Victims of serious crime should not be allowed to use the Human Rights Act to sue the police, the Home Office will argue on Monday in a landmark Supreme Court appeal.
The case of two females attacked by the notorious “black cab rapist” John Worboys against the Metropolitan Police will be heard at the highest court in the land, following an intervention from Prime Minister Theresa May, while she was Home Secretary.
The pair - known as DSD and NBV - won a civil claim against the Metropolitan Police for damages, after using human rights laws to argue that the force was liable for failures in its investigation.
Scotland Yard, with the backing of the Home Office, appealed the decision, amid concern that the ruling would open the floodgates to thousands of compensation claims from victims of rape.
The Home Office’s submission to the Supreme Court, seen by The Daily Telegraph, will argue that there are “very serious concerns” about imposing a duty of care on police in relation to their investigations.
They will tell the court that it could “damage operational effectiveness” by distracting officers from their cases and forcing them into “defensive policing”.
They will argue that if the ruling is upheld, it risks diverting “scare police resources” toward defending legal action about historic cases. Worboys, who one of the most prolific serial rapists in British history, was jailed for life in 2009 for carrying out more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults using alcohol and drugs to stupefy his victims.
He often pretended to have had a large casino or lottery win in order to persuade reluctant victims to “celebrate” with a glass of doped champagne.
But a botched Scotland Yard investigation, where officers did not take the women’s complaints seriously, meant that Worboys went on to attack dozens more female passengers.
Harriet Wistrich, of Birnberg Pierce, acting for the victims, said: “This case sets a very important precedent for women, because it shows that victims of rape should have an enforceable right under the Human Rights Act to bring action where they are let down by state failing.”
Martha Spurrier, the director of Liberty which has made a submission on behalf of the victims, said: "The police aren't disputing that there were terrible failures. The position they have now taken is to say yes we accept we failed the women, but we don’t think a legal challenge should exist. Rather than spending tax-payer money appealing the case, they should look at how to investigate crimes better."
One of the women, identified only as DSD, was the first of Worboys’ victims to make a complaint to the Met in 2003 - although a woman went to City of London Police the previous year - while the other, NBV, contacted them after she was attacked in July 2007.
In the intervening four years, Worboys attacked 74 other women, Phillippa Kaufmann QC told the High Court during a hearing in London last November.
DSD alleged that she suffered depression as a result of her treatment by officers during the 2003 investigation, while NBV claimed that she suffered serious distress, anxiety, guilt, post-traumatic disorder and depression as a result of her treatment during 2007.
The two women brought their claims under Articles 3 of the Human Rights Act which relates to inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Metropolitan Police was ordered to pay a total of £41, 250 compensation to the women, a decision which was later upheld by the Court of Appeal.
A coalition of women's rights groups - Rape Crisis, the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAWC), Southall Black Sisters and the Nia Project – have also made a submission to the Supreme Court.
Rachel Krys, co-director EVAWC said: “The findings of failings by the police in the Worboys case led to an independent review into rape investigations by the Met conducted by Dame Angiolini which made 46 recommendations for better policy and practice. That is why it is so disappointing that the Metropolitan Police along with the UK government are now seeking to overturn it.”
The case will be heard at the Supreme Court before Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court, along with Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr and Lord Hughes.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We do not routinely comment on on-going legal proceedings”. The Metropolitan Police declined to comment.